Giant Squid are a progressive metal band, originally from Sacramento, now based out of San Francisco, California. It’s my first exposure to them but looking at their discography they certainly have a taste for highfalutin concept albums and “Minoans” is no exception.
And now the history bit – the Minoans are a long lost pre-Christian civilisation, based on what is now Crete. Once a highly evolved culture at the centre of an important trade route they fell into decline after a natural disaster. Proof of their existence was only discovered in the last century by British archaeologist Arthur Evans.
All of this and more is covered on the album, which is part history lesson and part lamentation. An air of sorrow hangs over the whole production, the vocals of Aaron Gregory in particular are weary and grave, as if he has to impart this sorry tale but it’s all a great strain. There’s nothing very rock n’ roll about the performances – it comes from somewhere more ancient and European – although it is not short on theatrics. There’s a hint of Serj Tankian in Aaron Gregory‘s overblown vocal style which, when added to the swooping strings, ponderous rhythms and heavyweight subject matter, can make “Minoans” a tough listen. The whiff of amateur dramatics and naff rock operas is never far away.
On occasion it all comes together well; ‘Sixty Foot Waves’, about the tsunami that hit the Minoan society, has a livelier feel and less stentorian vocals married to a good chorus with heavy, jagged rhythms and a real sense of drama emerges. The following epic ‘Mycenaeans’ is equally spirited and you begin to re-evaluate the album, but that’s really as good as it gets. There are some decent cello-assisted riffs on the closing numbers as the band ramp up the tension but the songs never shake off the mood set by the very earnest delivery to really take flight. Fans of Tool and latter-period Mastodon may find Giant Squid‘s very serious rock music palatable but I find this squid to be a bit over cooked.